How to fix Flat Feet (Pes Planus)

What is Flat feet (Pes Planus)?

pes planus

It is a type of foot posture which involves the collapse of the inner arch of the foot.

As a result – the bottom of the foot is in complete contact with the floor.

Note: It is completely normal for the foot’s arch to collapse.

Problems occur when this movement is either excessive, uncontrolled and/or when your foot gets stuck in this position.


What causes flat feet?

1. Genetic factors


Image courtesy of rajcreationzs at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Genetic features are inherited from your parents… and that includes Flat Feet (Pes Planus)!

This is referred to as Structural Flat Feet.

This is where the formation of the bone/joint results in the foot arch being physically flat.

Unfortunately in this situation, your foot posture can not be changed through conservative means. 

Note: If your foot arch is present when you are sitting/lying down but disappears when you are standing on it, then you DO NOT have structural Flat Feet (Pes Planus).


2. Poor foot muscle mechanics

This is referred to as Functional Flat Feet (Pes Planus).

This is where the vast majority of you will fall under.

You may have:

  • Poor control of your ankle/feet/toes and/or,
  • Weak/tight foot muscles

… both of which can result in the collapse of the foot arch.

3. Other factors that may contribute:

  • Increase in body weight
  • Improper shoe wear
  • Ineffective posture
  • Incorrect techniques in sport

Test for Flat feet (pes Planus)

test for flat feet (pes planus)

a) Whilst standing

  • Stand upright as you normally would.
  • Observe your feet.
  • There should be an obvious arch on the inside of your foot.
  • As a rough guideline: You should be able to fit the tips of your fingers underneath the arch of your foot.
  • (Check your foot arch whilst standing on one foot as well!)

Results: If there is no gap between the bottom of your foot and the floor, then you likely have Flat Feet (Pes Planus).

b) Whilst walking:

Check out your foot print at the beach.

(Similarly – you can just wet your feet and observe the foot prints you make on the cement floor.)

Results: If your foot print leaves a wide imprint (indicating that the arch is touching the floor), then you likely have Flat Feet (Pes Planus).

problems with Flat Feet

Flat Feet (Pes Planus) may eventually lead to:

Interested in fixing your posture?

.. then come join me on the Facebook page!

I share all of my best posture tips there.


How to fix Flat Feet (Pes Planus)

Image courtesy of Flare at FreeDigitalPhotos.net


“So… how do you get an arch in your foot?”

1. Releases

a) Plantarfascia

plantarfascia release

Instructions:

  • Place your foot on a massage ball.
  • Apply pressure on the ball.
  • Roll your foot up/down
  • Duration: 1-3 minutes.

b) Achilles tendon

releases for flat feet

Instructions:

  • Sit on the floor with your legs straight in front of you.
  • Place the back of your achilles tendon on a ball.
  • Apply a downward pressure.
  • Rock your foot from side to side.
  • Duration: 1-3 minutes

c) Peroneals

The peroneal muscles are located on the outside of your lower leg. If tight, this muscle can cause your arches to collapse.

peroneal release

Instructions:

  • Place the outside of your lower leg on a massage ball.
    • (If you unsure of the location of the muscle, check on Google)
  • Apply pressure over the ball.
  • Make sure to cover the whole outer side of the lower leg.
  • Draw circles with your ankle to increase release.
  • Duration: 1-3 minutes

2. Stretches

The calf:

Tight calf muscles (Gastrocnemius and Soleus) will limit the amount of movement that the ankle can bend.

This will impact how you walk, run, squat etc.

Without full ankle movements, the foot will compensate with overpronation (collapsing of the foot arch) during movement.

Quick assessment: How to test your ankle flexibility

  • Face a wall.
  • Perform a lunge.
  • Whilst keeping your knee in contact with the wall, aim to get the front of your foot furthest away from the wall.
    • (Don’t cheat! Make sure the back of your heel does not lift off!)
  • Do not let your foot arch collapse as you bend your knee forwards!
  • Measure the distance between the tip of your big toe and the wall.

What should you aim for:

My recommendation: Aim to get your toe approximately >8cm from the wall with your knee still in contact with the wall.

If you have tight ankles, check out this blog: Improve your Ankle mobility.

a) Gastrocnemius

calf stretch for pes planus

Instructions:

  • Stand on the edge of a step with your heels off the edge.
  • Whilst keeping your knees completely straight, lower both of your heels towards the ground.
  • Aim to feel a superficial stretch in your calf muscle.
  • Hold this stretch for at least 30 seconds.
  • Repeat 3 times.

b) Soleus

calf stretch for flat feet

Instructions:

  • Assume the lunge position.
  • Bend the ankle at the front as much as you can by lunging forward.
  • Aim to feel a deep stretch in your calf muscle.
  • Hold this stretch for at least 30 seconds.
  • Repeat 3 times.
  • Note: This will also help loosen up any stiffness in the ankle joint.

c) Lateral structures

(Peroneals, Extensor digitorum, Lateral ligaments)

Instructions:

  • Whilst sitting, place your ankle on top of your other knee.
  • Place one hand on top of the ankle and the other on the forefoot.
  • Whilst anchoring the ankle joint down, pull the fore foot towards you.
    • (Include the toes!)
  • Aim to feel a stretch on the out side of the ankle.
  • Hold for 30 seconds.
  • Repeat 3 times.


3. Joint mobilisations

a) Traction

Instructions:

  • (To perform this exercise, you will need assistance. So – go grab a friend!)
  • Lie on the floor.
  • Instruct your friendly helper to firmly grasp your ankle below the bony bits on the side. (see above)
  • Relax your leg as your assistant pulls your foot away from you.
  • Hold for 30 seconds.
  • Repeat 3 times.

b) Dorsiflexion with band

exercises for flat feet pes planus

Instructions:

  • Attach a resistance band to a stationary object behind you.
  • Lace the band around your ankle.
    • The band should be below the Malleoli (bumps on sides of the ankle).
  • Assume a lunge position with your ankle on a bench. (see above)
  • Make sure that there is a firm amount of tension in the band.
    • To increase tension, move forward so that you are further away from the anchor point of the band.
  • Lunge forward.
  • Do not let your arch collapse as you bend your knee forwards!
  • You may feel a:
    • Blocking sensation at the front of the ankle joint and/or
    • Stretch at the back of the heel/calf region
  • Repeat 30 times.

c) Sub-talar

Instructions:

  • Whilst sitting, place your ankle on top of your other knee.
  • Cup the heel with one hand, and place the other hand on top of the ankle.
  • Perform a wiggle motion on your heel bone in a up/down direction.
  • Continue for 30 seconds.

4. The importance of the big toe

Your big toe is more important than you think… especially when it comes to fixing Flat Feet (Pes Planus) during walking.

It is CRUCIAL that your big toe has:

  1. The ability to extend.
  2. Adequate strength

The combination of these 2 factors will help engage and lift of the medial arch of the foot.

Without sufficient big toe function, the foot is forced to compensate with overpronation (rolling inwards)… resulting in a Flat Feet (Pes Planus).

a) Stretch for big toe

Instructions:

  • Place the big toe onto a door frame. (see above)
  • Lean your foot into the wall to create a stretch of the big toe.
  • Hold for 30 seconds.
  • Repeat 3 times.

b) Big toe activation

how to fix flat feet

Instructions:

  • Assume a lunge position. (see above)
    • The foot at the back will be the side targeted.
    • Make sure that your big toe is extended back as far as possible without compromising the alignment of your foot.
  • Push the tip of your big toe into the ground as you point your foot against the ground.
    • Place as much of your body weight onto the back leg that you can comfortably tolerate.
  • Return your weight back to the ball of the foot.
  • Repeat 20 times.


4. Strengthening

We need to strengthen the muscles that will encourage the arch in your feet.

This is namely the action of the Tibialis Posterior, Tibials Anterior and plantar foot muscles.

The Short foot exercise

The MOST important exercise to fix Flat Feet (Pes Planus)


I call this the “king” of all foot exercises.

It is the fundamental exercise that all other exercises are based on.

You need to learn how to do this correctly! Don’t rush it.

short foot exercise for flat feet pes planus

Instructions:

  • Stand with your feet facing forwards and shoulder width apart.
  • Whilst keeping your toes relaxed, proceed to scrunch the under-surface of your foot.
    • Drag the base of your big toe backwards towards the heel.
  • Keep the base of the big toe in contact with the ground to prevent this area from lifting.
  • Gently push the tip of your big toe down onto the ground.
  • If performed correctly, you should be able to feel the strong contraction of the muscles underneath your foot.
    • Does it feel like it’s going to cramp? THAT’S GREAT! You are recruiting the right muscles.
  • Hold this for 5 seconds.
  • Repeat 20 times.

Note: It is called the Short foot exercise because it actually makes you drop a shoe size.

Progressions:

a) Heel raise/drop with ball

short foot exercise for pes planus

Instructions:

  • Stand on the edge of a step.
  • Place a small ball between your ankles. (see above)
  • Perform the Short foot activation.
  • Squeeze the ball between your ankles throughout all movement.
  • Perform a heel raise and drop.
  • Do not let your ankles roll out.
    • Aim to keep the achilles tendon vertical throughout the exercise.
  • Repeat 30 times.

b) Step through

 how to fix flat feet exercises

Instructions:

  • Have your feet in a staggered position.
  • Activate short foot in your leading leg. (See position 1)
  • Whilst maintaining short foot on the leading leg, step forward with the back leg.
  • As the swinging leg is about to land on the ground, push off from the big toe.
  • You should feel a contraction in your arch through movement.
  • Return to starting point.
  • Repeat 30 times.
  • Progression: Instead of stepping to the front, try stepping in different directions whilst maintaining a strong short foot contraction.

c) Single leg balance

Instructions:

  • Balance on one leg.
  • Activate the short foot.
  • Gently tap your other foot on the ground around your body whilst maintaining the short foot contraction
    • Pretend that you are tapping an ant on the head. Don’t squash it!
  • Keep your pelvis level
    • Only your leg should be moving
  • Continue for 1 minute.
  • To progress: Reach and tap your foot further away from you.

d) The “Michael Jackson” lean

Instructions:

  • Stand with your feet shoulder width apart.
  • Activate short foot throughout exercise. (see above)
  • Keeping your legs straight, lean your whole body forwards from the ankles.
    • You will need to dig your toes into the ground to prevent you from falling forward.
    • You can do this in front of a wall if you feel you are going to fall forward.
  • Use your feet/toe muscles to prevent yourself from falling and return to the starting position.
  • Repeat 10 times.

5. Improve your toe control

The entire human race has forgotten how to use their foot muscles!

We have absolutely no idea how to properly co-ordinate, control and move our feet.

This is a big problem for Flat Feet (Pes Planus)!

Why?… Because the muscles that control your feet also play a huge role in the support of the foot arch.

Try out these 2 exercises to get your brain connecting to your foot again.

a) Alternate toe lift

Instructions:

  • Position 1: Lift up only your big toe whilst pushing the other 4 toes into the ground.
  • Position 2: Push your big toe into the ground whilst lifting the other 4 toes.
  • Transition smoothly between these 2 positions.
    • Keep your foot still. Your toes should be the only thing that is moving.
  • Repeat 30 times.
    • (… or as many times it takes to get the movement happening)
    • It’s harder than it looks!

b) Toe spread/squeeze

Instructions:

  • Position 1: Spread all of your toes. (without bending your toes or moving your foot)
  • Position 2: Squeeze all of your toes together. (without bending your toes or moving your foot)
  • Transition between these 2 positions.
  • Repeat 30 times.

6. Flat feet brace

flat feet brace

If you are experiencing any pain in the hip, knee and/or foot as a result of the fallen arches in you Flat feet (Pes Planus), you can use a foot brace to help reduce your symptoms.

These braces provide external support to help lift your foot arch.

Keep in mind – I recommend to only use them for a short period of time so that your foot muscles do not become dependent on it.

(Note: The end goal will always be to rely on your own muscles to support your foot arch.)


7. Orthotics for Flat feet: Good or bad?

Orthotics are inserts which are placed in your shoe.

It’s function is to provide an external support to lift up your fallen arches.

… Sounds good, right?

However… The main issue I have with orthotics is that it makes your already weak foot muscles even weaker.

You become reliant on the orthotic without giving your muscles any real chance to self-correct the problem.

If you are considering getting an orthotic for your Flat Feet (Pes Planus), please consider doing the exercises FIRST.


8. Other areas to consider:

But wait!… there’s more!

Although the exercises mentioned post will definitely help you regain your arch, I would also recommend that you address other areas of your posture that may be the ROOT CAUSE of your Flat Feet (Pes Planus).

Check out these blog posts to find out more:

a) Anterior Pelvic Tilt

anterior pelvic tilt flat feet pes planus

Forward tilting of the pelvis can orientate the whole leg in a position of internal rotation.

This collapse of the entire leg can lead to Flat Feet (Pes Planus).

For more information, check out this blog post:

b) Knee Valgus

knee valgus flat feet

This is where the knee collapses inwards which then leads to overpronation of the foot.

For more information, check out this blog post:

Remember:

Do your exercises… every day!

Try to incorporate the short foot activation in everything that you do!

The more you do it, the better you will get!


what to do next:

Any questions?… Leave me a comment down below.

– Follow me on Facebook. (Let’s keep in touch!)

– Do the exercises!

264 thoughts on “How to fix Flat Feet (Pes Planus)”

  1. Dear Mark Wong.
    Hello, we are the production crew of Korean TV programs Channel A and ‘I Am the Body God’. The goal of our program is to introduce a variety of beneficial health information to our viewers.

    I’d like to ask if our program could air a flat-footed exercise called ‘Michl Jackson Lean’ posted on your homepage.
    Can we introduce this exercise as a way to correct flat feet in our program?

    The exercise method is planned to be introduced by a physical therapist along with other movements.
    I hope you will share your wonderful wisdom with many viewers in Korea.

    I look forward to hearing from you. Thank you very much.
    I always wish you good health and happiness.

    Reply
  2. Hi Mark
    Im experiencing pain in my feet almost, everyday, esp at the end of the day. And more so if I’m continuosly standing and working or walking. Sharp pain in the heel. And now days arch area too. Also after reading your blog, I’m pretty sure I have flat feet. With wet feet, I see full feet but v lil gap but the outlining is the entire foot is present. And I realised I always had this pain during my teenage and twenties but not this much the way I have now. Due to knee pain I visited knee specialist, got xray done, found lil roughage in ball socket joint and one knee lil inwards. Im assuming it’s coz of flat feet only. All the exercises mentioned by you , will they help in correcting the flat feet ? Coz I think it’s not structural in origin.

    Reply
    • Hey Deepa,

      If your flat feet is not structural, then it is very likely the exercises will help you.

      Pain in the heel and arch may be suggestive of an injury like plantarfasciosis and/or perhaps issue with the flexor hallucis longus muscle.

      Mark

  3. Hi,
    Sorry if this has been asked before, but I think I have fallen arches as I have been pregnant or breastfeeding since January 2016. My doctor said I have flat feet but this definitely is a new thing for me. He suggested I walk concentrating my weight on the inside of my foot rather than on the edge of my foot where my pain is…? My main problem is that I get pain in my toes , mostly my right fourth toe. It is constantly red and swollen. I am waiting for a podiatry appointment but obviously that won’t happen for a long time now.

    Just wondering you have any experience of this ?

    Thanks so much for reading

    Reply
    • Hello Hannah,

      Flat feet can occur during pregnancy due to 1) increase in weight and 2) your muscles becomes more “loose” due to the release of hormones.

      Keep in mind – this does not necessarily mean that this is the cause of the pain your 4th toe.

      If you have pain in the 4th toe, I would feel it might be due to the way you are walking and/or shoe wear? If this is the case – I would suggest the podiatrist to look at how you “toe off” during your walking.

      This would give you better clues as to what is really happening.

      Mark

  4. Hi Mark,

    You are awesome! I have 2 young kids that have flat feet and I was hoping these exercises can help them strength their arches since they play sports and easy get tired. I’m more of visual person, is it possible you can make some youtube videos with all these exercise step by step.

    Thanks

    Reply
  5. Hi Mark, your site is amazing with so much of helpful information. Thanks a lot for sharing your knowledge. I have a flat feet. Could you please let me know if one needs to do all of the exercises everyday, I mean Release, Stretches and Strengthening exercises everyday or just release exercises for some days and then just do Stretches for somedays and then progress to Strengthening exercises?

    Reply
    • Hey Shobha,

      It depends!

      If it is practical for you, try to do everything in the one day.

      If you are very tight – you might need to just focus on the releases and stretches for now.

      If there is no tightness, you could just to the strengthening.

      Generally speaking – 2 to 3 /week is a good place to be at.

      Mark

  6. Hey Mark,

    Thank you for a fantastic article. With gyms currently being closed I’ve started individual running sessions that are parkour oriented.

    I currently have a flat left foot and over arched right foot. My balance is impeccable on my right foot and adequate on my left. I intend to utilize your foot excersizes and include them into my daily fitness journal.

    What would be a good way to measure my progress?

    Reply
    • Hey Brent,

      Thanks for the comment.

      To answer your question: If you have good awareness of the quality of balance in your left foot, you can use this to measure your progress by seeing improvements in your single leg standing balance exercises.

      Also – if you have one flat foot and one arched foot, double check to see if you have a pelvis rotation that might be causing this.

      All the best.

      Mark

  7. Read your blog very carefully and found some very important tips. As I am facing knee valgus problem Can you tell me more about knee valgus topic?

    Reply
  8. Hello Mark, once again thank you for the wonderful article!
    If one was very short on time, what activities should they prioritize? For example, 1. Strengthening 2. Stretches

    Reply
    • Hey Daniel,

      In a very simplistic view:

      If you are very tight: Focus on stretches.

      If you are not tight , but unable to attain/main the arch, focus on strengthening exercises.

      Mark

  9. Hi Mark,

    How do I know what is causing what in order to work on that first? I have had a micro discectomy L5-S1 many years ago and have really bad pelvic instability, but also thoracic and neck pain, rounded shoulders, forward head posture and plantar fasciitis. I’ve been going to physio for 10 years which helps for a limited time. Should I do all the exercises for those areas or prioritize certain ones first? Thanks you in advance!

    Reply
    • Hey Stacey,

      You can address all of them at the same time, but this really depends on how much time you have.

      Ideally – you would want to focus on the area which would probably help address a majority of the other areas as well.

      Your next question is likely going to be how do you figure that out?

      My advice would be just to start with 1 area, do the exercises to get that said area as good as it can be, monitor the affects (if any) on the other areas you mentioned, then address another area.

      Mark

  10. Hi Mark, I have a buddy on my softball team who is experiencing a problem with one of his feet….when he is standing straight up and feet together…. he cannot on his left foot I believe, raise any of his toes, nothing at all…I was wondering what you would think is going on, thanking you for a reply, Rich

    Reply

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